ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- Taking Sam Bradford as the number one overall pick in 2010 was, for the most part, met with much excitement in St. Louis. He was a high-profile, former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback who gave this franchise a face that it desperately needed.
Having arguably the greatest rookie season ever for a QB - at the time - certainly didn’t hurt that assessment. Bradford completed 60 percent of his passes in 2010 (354/590) for 3512 yards and 18 touchdowns. His 41.5 QBR (system based on a quarterback’s performance scaled 1-100 with 50 being average) was more than respectable.
2011 was a step back in many respects. Bradford’s completion percentage went down (53.5), his yards plummeted (2164) and so did his TDs (6) and QBR (28.6). Now, keep in mind he only played in 10 games because of an ankle injury.
The offensive line completely and totally fell apart on him after playing relatively well in his rookie season. The epitome of that was LT Rodger Saffold. The 2nd round pick in 2010 protected Bradford’s blind side extraordinarily well in 2010 but missed most of the 2011 season with a pec injury. That caused lots of shuffling that ultimately left Bradford quite vulnerable.
The excitement over Bradford started to shake along with that. The optimists suggested it was the offensive line’s fault and therefore an excuse for the quarterback’s poor numbers. The pessimists looked at the fact even when Bradford was upright and throwing, his accuracy left a lot to be desired. He missed open receivers like he’d never done in a Rams (or Oklahoma Sooners) uniform before.
Well, enter Jeff Fisher and a brand new regime in 2012. I came into this season believing that if the optimists were right, Bradford’s poor sophomore season wouldn’t - and couldn’t - happen again. Blaming a rough year on others can happen once. But not twice. Once is an accident. Two is a trend. Elite QBs don’t lets external factors derail their performance.
So here were are halfway through the 2012 season and Bradford’s numbers look an awful lot like those rookie ones of 2010. His completion percentage (61.4) is actually a tad higher than that season and his passing yards (1797) at the midpoint put him on pace to be a career best.
Yet, Bradford still has a QBR south of 50 (46.1) which, by definition, is below average. And he still has just eight touchdown passes (on pace for 16 when the elite guys usually throw for about 30 in a season).
Those optimists, I’m quite sure, point to another battered offensive line (Saffold has missed time yet again while center Scott Wells has been out just about all season) and the fact Bradford’s had to deal without his favorite target in Danny Amendola for about a month.
I’d love to see what someone like Peyton Manning (in his prime, of course) or Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers would do if they were put in a similar situation. Those guys were and are truly elite quarterbacks who have led their teams to Super Bowl titles. If they had an injury riddled offensive line and lost their favorite receiver would they have played better than Bradford has this season?
It’s an impossible question to answer, of course, but my gut tells me they would.
Bill Parcells used to say it takes three years to determine what you are as a player. Well, this is Bradford’s third season.
And I’m venturing to say the ceiling (i.e. potential) on him has lowered a bit since he was taken first overall in the 2010 draft. He can still be a well above average quarterback, for sure. But I’m skeptical he’s going to reach that truly elite status of Brees, Brady, Rodgers and Manning like we all envisioned a couple years ago.